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5th Oct 2020

Canada to open border to international students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Canada has expanded its travel exemptions for foreign students, in a move that will see border restrictions easing for students later this month
  • At that point, students will be allowed to enter Canada if they are attending an institution or school with a government-approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place
  • Other restrictions and requirements for travellers, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine period, remain in effect

Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino announced on Friday that the country would re-open its borders to international students as of 20 October 2020.

Effective that date, students may enter Canada if they are attending a designated learning institution (DLI) that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID-19 readiness plan in place. (A DLI is an institution or school that has been approved by the Canadian government to admit and welcome students.)

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicates that further details will be published on 8 October, and the ministry advises that, “Travellers should not make any travel plans until they have met all requirements and obtained all necessary authorisations to qualify to come to Canada under the new rules.”

IRCC notes that safety measures currently in place at Canadian ports of entry will remain in place, and that public health staffing at Canadian borders will be further strengthened in the coming months.

Those measures include:

  • All travellers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.
  • All travellers must provide additional arrival details after entry to Canada, including contact details and self assessments during quarantine, and all are recommended to provide such updates via the ArriveCan app.
  • Those arriving in Canada by air must pass a pre-boarding health check conducted by their airline. IRCC adds that, "Upon arrival in Canada, a traveller’s health and ability to quarantine will be assessed before they leave the port of entry."
  • Any traveller showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival at a port of entry will not be allowed to enter Canada.

Until IRCC's 2 October announcement, only students with study permits approved on or before 18 March could enter the country, but only if they could demonstrate that their travel was not "discretionary".

Early reaction

Coming as it does after weeks of lobbying, planning, and preparation on the part of Canada's international educators, the news of the easing of border restrictions for international students spread quickly throughout the Canadian system over the weekend. A 4 October news release from Languages Canada makes it clear how much was riding on the decision to allow international students to enter the country once again.

"Many of our members were heading straight for closure by year-end because they were unable to welcome students. We are sincerely grateful to the government for listening to our needs on this matter," said Executive Director Gonzalo Peralta.

"The government is proposing strict but acceptable measures for student entry. I am confident that all our members will comply with these measures, as they are far less problematic than the complete closure of our borders and the subsequent loss of Canada’s Official Languages education sector," he added. "The reality is that for our country to emerge from the pandemic without being devastated we need to balance health safety and economic safety. And it can be done; Canada can innovate."

We will update our coverage on this item throughout the week, and especially when any additional process details or travel requirements are provided by IRCC on 8 October.

For additional background, please see:

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